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Right Writing News, July18, 2011 Issue #46
July 18, 2011

Welcome to the 46th issue to subscribers of Right Writing News. If you are reading this issue forwarded from someone, be sure and use the link below to get your own free subscription.

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Table of Contents

1) Will We Meet at a Conference?
By W. Terry Whalin

2) Independence for Every Writer
By W. Terry Whalin

3) A Crucial Element to Book Proposal Success
By Sharlene Martin and Anthony Flacco

4) From Concept to Contract
By W. Terry Whalin

5) Is Your Book Idea a Winner or a Dud?
By Laura Backes

6) Contains Years of Wisdom & Insight
By W. Terry Whalin

7) 8 Tips to Make Your Next Writers Conference Awesome!
By Penny Sansevieri

Will We Meet at a Conference?

By W. Terry Whalin

The writer conference season is in full swing and I hope to see you at one of these places

This coming week I'm a keynote speaker at The Roaring Lambs Conference in the Dallas, Texas area.

Next month, I'll be teaching at two different conferences. First, I'll be at The Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference from August 10 to 13 where I'll be teaching some workshops and meeting with writers. Then from Auugust 15 to 18, I will be at The Oregon Christian Writers Summer Conference in Turner, Oregon. If you can make either conference, I would love to see you face to face.

From November 4 and 5, I'll be at the Indianapolis Christian Writers Conference. I have some other conference dates in the works but they are not finalized. You can monitor my speaking schedule at this link.

I encourage you to check the specific conference schedule to see which classes I will be teaching and how we can schedule some time together to speak about your project. Besides my teaching, I will be meeting individually with writers to learn about their projects and how I can help them through my role as a publisher at Intermedia Publishing Group.

I know that it takes effort to get to one of these conferences but I look forward to meeting you in person. From my experiences of attending these conferences, it can be a life-changing experience to take your writing to a new level.

Remember Editors and Agents do not read book manuscripts. They read book proposals. Learn how to write an excellent book proposal at:

Independence for Every Writer

By W. Terry Whalin

For many years, I’ve been working within the publishing community whether as a magazine writer, a book author, a magazine editor, a book editor, a literary agent and now a book publisher. I’ve developed products and books to train others to easily enter the publishing community, work with others and achieve their publishing dreams. This article may seem a bit contrary to this focus. I continue to be a strong advocate for working with others. It is through the team approach that your writing improves and you can do much more than you ever could on your own.

Yet I also encourage you to start something independent of the magazines or book publishers.


While I believe it is good to work with others and the strength of the team process, creating independent products and services also has value for every writer and should not be ignored.

For example, some publications pay on publication or months after they have accepted your article. While many beginning writers don’t think about it, often traditional publishers pay once a year or the best they do is to pay quarterly or four times a year.

If you create the products yourself use a tool to collect the payment, then you immediately receive the payment for selling the product or service.

Many writers are struggling to wonder how to earn a living at their writing. One answer is to begin writing and selling small reports. My 84-page Ebook, The 31-Day Guide to Making Money Writing Small Reports gives step-by-step instructions.

From working on this Ebook, I’ve got a list of small reports that I’m actively working to put together and get online.

Just stop for a few minutes and think about it. What information product can you create that would be a help to others? Take a few minutes and write down some ideas. Maybe you already have the content in your blog entries or in answers that you give on a specific forum or for a group. You’ve invested the time and energy to learn this unique skill and with a little bit of effort on your part to rewrite it, you can create this small report. Then you can sell this small report and help others.

Also in selling this small report online you also create your own independent business effort. Imagine how much more attractive you will be to book publishers if you have already established a connection to your audience or readers?

The process is not complicated or difficult. Each writer can do it. In fact, I recommend that you create your own plan of independence. It might start with reading my risk-free small report. As I wrote toward the bottom of the sales page, you can buy this report with my 100% money back guarantee. You have nothing to lose and your independence to gain.

Open new doors for your writing with small reports. You receive step-by-step instructions in my risk-free 31-Day Guide.

A Crucial Element to Book Proposal Success

By Sharlene Martin and Anthony Flacco

After reading thousands of book proposals, I know for a fact that many writers fail in the section about their competition. The writer either falsely believes there is no competition (every book competes) and writes that information explicitly for this section or they write a section which is incomplete and not persuasive.

Whether you write nonfiction or fiction, the competition is an important part of every book proposal. Below I’m including an excerpt from the excellent Publish Your Nonfiction Book, Strategies for Learning the Industry, Selling Your Book, and Building A Successful Career by Sharlene Martin and Anthony Flacco. Yes, Sharlene and Anthony have focused on nonfiction but if you are a novelist, do not be fooled into thinking this material is not for you. It is equally important for you to learn. Every writer can profit from a careful study of this book. Here’s their valuable excerpt:

"Next to your platform, your book comparisons (or comps) section is the biggest key to the success of your proposal. Your comps section must consist of three to six examples of recent books that are similar to yours, and which sold well. Take time and care in considering the right comps for your project. They must reflect well on the potential success of your book.

To find appropriate comps, you can start with online booksellers such as or Barnes & Noble ( Look for recent books that cover the same or similar subject matter as yours. Because trends and habits change, a book that did well thirty years ago will not necessarily do well today, and so it will not be a good comp. There is no use in comparing your book to a dinosaur. Additionally, new people are constantly moving into publishing, and they might not be aware of a book that old—or even one from ten years ago. Newer books give agents and editors a point of reference for current consumer buying habits in your field.

No matter what your book title and subject, you are sure to find a few comps that are close. offers several million titles; a few have to be similar to yours.

When you find eight to ten books that look promising and that are similar to your book, check those titles in terms of sales. The number one mistake that authors make here is that they list comparative titles without any thought to the success of the books. There is absolutely no point in holding up a book that tanked as a supporting example.

Many authors use the daily sales rankings at and Barnes & Noble to determine sales success, but these numbers only reflect very current sales and are not accurate indicators of the overall, long-term sales of a book. A better bet is to go to the best-seller lists in The New York Times or USA Today. Both publications archive their best-seller lists and you can check to see which of your prospective comps are on those lists. If you are lucky, you will find one or two of your comps have done exceedingly well. One might even have a blurb on the cover to the effect of “Sixty Weeks on the Best-Seller List!” or you might find a book that is in its fifth or sixth printing.

Then do your homework. Find the publishers of the recent comps that sold well, and go to their websites. See how many books they release each year and how large their backlist is. If you want to attract a large publisher, you need to use comps that have been published by a large publisher.

If these steps have completely eliminated your prospective list of comps, go find some more. If some comps are still on your list, go to an actual bricks-and-mortar bookstore or a library to find an actual copy of your prospective comp. Then assess it for quality. If the manufacture of the book is done as shoddy work, that publisher will not be among the respected in the industry. When you hold the inferior book in your hands, it becomes apparent that if you had used it as a comp, that would only draw an unfavorable comparison—something that you surely want to avoid.

As you can see, this process can take some time. After you finally get three to six suitable titles, pull information for the comp’s title: author, publisher, publication date, page count, ISBN, and whether it is hardcover, trade paperback, or a mass-market paperback. Be careful: Many popular books have more than one edition, as well as large print and audio versions. You definitely want to choose the printed version that sold best. Often, but not always, it is the original hardcover printing of the book. Pull a cover image so agents and editors can get a visual. Format the image as you did the other photos in your book proposal, then place it in your document near that book’s title information.Next, decide how best to compare and contrast your title with each of the comps. To do this, (a) develop a one-paragraph description of the comp, then (b) add another paragraph of analysis explaining how your book offers positive points that the other book lacks. The common theme for all commercial nonfiction is that your book is similar to others in ways that have proven successful, but it is also uniquely yours by virtue of your valuable perspective.

More is not more, here. One prospective author sent us a proposal that included twelve comps, ten of which were from small, university, or self-published presses. If your goal is to be with a university press for the prestige, then by all means use those books as comps. But don’t use these kinds of books and expect to get a sizable advance, as those presses pay very little in the way of up-front money.

With the proliferation of information on Internet, there is no excuse for an author to remain ignorant about the profession. Check out your references. For example, if the publisher of a prospective comp doesn’t have a website, run! If the website is cheesy, run faster. Consider that the way this sloppy website looks to you now is how you would look to others, if they learned that this publisher was handling your work.

Never bluff. You must read your competition. Otherwise how will you determine the right way to position your book? You could easily end up looking like a fool by declaring a certain book to be a “comp” for yours, when your recipient is aware that it is not a good comparison. With today’s tight budgets, accurate competitive analysis is more important than ever, but the onus of it is upon you, ahead of the publisher. When you multiply your book by hundreds of others, it is clear that editors at publishing companies have no time to do this for each book that they are thinking about buying. But if you try to bluff your way through with lazy work, you will never know how to predict what your recipient already knows about the topic. The accuracy of your comps is another arena where you can demonstrate that you are the writer for this book.

Regarding the language in your comparison: Certain words and phrases are the kiss of death in the comps section of a proposal. Never say, “This book is better than__________________ .” Who knows whether your proposal might end up being read by the agent or editor of the book you just slammed. It can happen! A better way to approach is to say: “My book offers _____________ in order to go deeper into the topic than other books have done so far.”

Never try to get off with light work by claiming that “there are no other books out there” like yours. This is actually a very old and tired gimmick that has been attempted far too many times to carry any weight. Many of your competition will try it anyway, which is fortunate for you because it isn’t going to work for them, either.”

Excerpted by Permission from Publish Your Nonfiction Book by Sharlene Martin and Anthony Flacco (Writer’s Digest Books, 2009) Pages 74-77.

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From Concept to Contract

By W. Terry Whalin

Over 83% of Americans plan to publish a book at some point in their life. The majority of Christian nonfiction writers are filled with passion yet they have no experience in how to navigate the book publishing world.

In Writing The Christian Nonfiction Book Concept to Contract, Fessenden writes, “Any good book is the result of inspiration, followed by hours of grueling work. I don’t know about you, but for me, inspiration is not a problem (except it comes at the most inconvenient times, doesn’t it?).

It’s the prospect of the hard work that gets to me—it shuts down my brain, wiping away any shred of creativity. No wonder most authors have no idea where to begin when they sit down to write a book.” (Page 2)

In the pages of this book, David Fessenden boils the process into eight steps:

1) Brainstorming

2) Researching

3) Outlining

4) Preparing the Proposal

5) Writing the Rough Draft

6) Revising

7) Fine-tuning the Manuscript

8) Getting the Contract

As the author of more than 60 nonfiction books (many of them Christian books and from traditional publishers), I've repeatedly been through this process. I resonated with Fessenden's insight and instruction which are mixed with humor and honesty. He is a skilled communicator who has written Christian nonfiction books and guided other authors as a book editor. That experience shines in these pages.

Each chapter includes three tips for the reader to apply the teaching to their own plans for book publishing. If you study and apply the information in this book, it will take you down the path to getting your Christian book published. I recommend you get this title, read it carefully and highlight the pages. Then take it one step further. You will need to apply the information to your writing life. Writing The Christian Nonfiction Book Concept to Contract will push you down the road to achieving your goals in the nonfiction book world.

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Is Your Book Idea a Winner or a Dud?

By Laura Backes, Children's Book Insider

You wake up at 2:00 a.m. with a fantastic idea for a book. Since you've put pen and paper next to your bed for just this purpose, you scribble down your inspiration and fall back to sleep. In the morning, the idea still looks pretty good. So the next step would be to start Chapter 1, right? Not so fast. Even if you never write an outline or a detailed character sketch, the fundamental ideas behind your writing should be put through a test to make sure they're solid enough to support a whole book. While there's no foolproof method, the following checklist might help:

* Does it excite you? First and foremost, you must have passion for this idea. You've got to love it, or you'll never sell it to your readers. Is this idea something you can live with and work on for months or even years?

* Why do you want to write about this idea? If you have a genuine interest in the underlying topic of your fiction or nonfiction book, great. If you think it's good because it's the type of thing children should be reading, you're headed for trouble. Write for yourself first.

Sometimes ideas are assigned to writers by magazine or book publishers who are looking to fill a specific need. It's fine if the initial idea comes from somewhere else, but you must find a way to make it your own. Perhaps it's a subject that's always interested you. Maybe it gives you a good excuse to dig through photo archives at the local museum, or a chance to write about your hobby while getting paid.

* Is this the first idea that popped into your head? Brilliant ideas rarely come to us full-blown. Most need simmer a while, be looked at from different angles, before they're worth writing about. Even if you think your idea is perfect, try pushing it further. Ask yourself "What if?" (What if this character had an older sister instead of being an only child? What if his sister was a genius, and finished college at age 15? What if my book about frogs didn't cover all frogs, but just those found in rainforests? What if I wrote this nonfiction book as an easy reader?) Fiction writers in particular can be guilty of not stretching their ideas in enough directions before they start their stories.

* Are you qualified to write about this idea? With nonfiction, are you willing to research the topic as much as necessary? Do you have access to proper materials? Are you prepared to become an expert on this subject in order to write about it? With fiction, is the setting familiar to you? Will the main character be encountering situations you can portray from personal experience? If not, are you able to learn about these things?

* Are you writing a story, or sending a message? Your primary goal when writing fiction should be to tell a good story. If the reader learns something because of how the characters act, great. But if you're intent on teaching the reader a lesson, you'll manipulate your characters to perform in ways that aren't true to their natures. When creating nonfiction, your job is to present information that exposes the reader to new ideas and inspires them to find out more.
About the Author: Laura Backes is the publisher of Children's Book Insider, the Newsletter for Children's Writers. For more information about writing children's books, including free articles, market tips, insider secrets and much more, visit Children's Book Insider's home on the web at
Copyright 2011, Children's Book Insider, LLC.
Reprinted with permission.

Want to write children's books? click here.

Contains Years of Wisdom & Insight

By W. Terry Whalin

Contains Years of Wisdom and Insight

If you have ever had the yearning to become a Christian screenwriter or actor or producer or director, then you will take years off wasting your time with this book. Dr. Ted Baehr, the Founder and Publisher of Movieguide, has written a comprehensive guide. As he writes in the introduction, "It is a critical time for people of faith to communicate through the mass media of the entertainment industry...This book intends to help you to do just what Jesus commanded: herald His good news in movies and television, the marketplace of entertainment." (Page xxviii)

Dr. Baehr breaks the contents into two main sections: Foundations and Step-by-Step. Each section is loaded with practical yet detailed information into the business. While the author has years of experience, he has reached out to 30 diverse Hollywood experts with stellar credentials. He interweaves these contributors throughout the book and it strengthens the message and impact of the contents.

While this book is loaded with practical information, I want to give one detailed example as a taste of the contents from the chapter, "If It's Not On the Page...":

"Remember that the average movie takes nine years from start to finish. The Passion of the Christ took ten years. Evita took twenty-three years. Batman took seventeen years. There are several reasons why it takes so long. First, there are 300,000 scripts submitted every year to the Writers guild of America and many more are written that are never submitted, aside from the flood of novels every year, but less than three hundred movies open in theaters every year. Thus, most scripts never make it into production. Second, Hollywood movies cost over $104 million to produce and distribute in 2010, and it takes a long, long time to get all the elements together so that some distributor or investor will want to put up this kind of money. Third, most people take years to get the script right. The Los Angeles Times interviewed a woman who was trying to twenty years to sell her script. She said that in all those years she had not had the time to take a scriptwriting course or read a book on scriptwriting. The Los Angeles Times and all of us should be perplexed: What was she doing all that time that she could not take a moment to learn her chosen craft?" (Page 150 to 151)

Before you follow the beckoning siren of Hollywood, you need the detailed information in How to Succeed in Hollywood (Without Losing Your Soul) A FieldGuide for Christian Screenwriters, Actors, Producers, Directors, and more..

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8 Tips to Make Your Next Writers Conference Awesome!

By Penny Sansevieri

I love going to writers conferences, and it's really awesome when I'm speaking there as well. But as wonderful as the networking is, if you don't show up with a plan or a set of action items for the conference, you can get sucked up into the vibe of the event without being very productive. Here are some tips to help you maximize your event!

Goals: Before you go to a writers conference, be clear on your goals. If it's just networking, that's great, but if you want to get more than networking out of the event, make sure you establish your specific objectives in advance.

Start networking before the event starts: Now that you've gone through the conference website, it's time to identify the folks you'd like to get to know better and start your networking early. Send them an email and tell them you are looking forward to seeing them at the event, or hearing them speak. Follow them on Twitter and begin to network with them there. Early networking is a great way to get in front of agents and publishers you might not otherwise have access to.

Make appointments early: The conference website should be your new best friend. Comb through it to find names of publishers and agents who are going to be there. Most conferences will offer you publisher or agent appointments so you can present your work, but if you want to coordinate a meeting with someone for any other reason dig through the website to find out who will be there and see if you can get on their calendar. I have shown up at conferences hoping to make appointments there and found that they're not only difficult to schedule, but often confusing as well. Once you hit the conference floor the momentum of the event takes over, and any appointments that haven't been confirmed prior to event generally won't happen.

Take business cards: Make sure you bring a lot of business cards, running out at an event is never good.

Stay organized: I will generally bring some letter-sized envelopes with me to the event and then file cards by session or event so I can keep track of where I collected them. For example, let's say I went to a big awards dinner and did some networking. If I file all of these in the "Awards dinner" envelope, I can add a personal element to the follow up email like "It was nice to meet you at the awards dinner, wasn't Marci's acceptance speech great?"

Easy follow-up: Ok, so you've had a great meeting with a publisher and they want to see a chapter of your book. Great! Now what? Take their card, flip it over and jot down a few important notes on the back such as: follow-up steps, short meeting details ("met for lunch"), and anything else you can fit onto the card such as any personal details they shared - like having a daughter who went to the same school as your kids or something like that.

Never eat alone: There's a great networking book by the same name (Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi, Crown Books) and the statement is true. At a writers conference be sure to grab a table packed with people and even better, don't sit with the same folks over and over again. Mix it up and meet new people!

Action items: At the end of each conference day, I find it helpful to gather my notes and go through and highlight the important items from the day. I have often waited until I'm on the plane back home, or worse, the Monday following the conference and I generally can't make heads or tails out of who I am supposed to follow up with at that point. Lesson: do it early while the information is still fresh.

And finally, our bonus tip:

Plan B: If you can't afford to attend the writers conference that's in your town here's an idea for you. When a big conference rolls into town, an author friend of mine will sometimes hang out in the downstairs coffee shop or restaurant at the hotel where the event is being held and network with people there. You never know who you might meet.

Conference follow-up: This is a biggie. Make sure you always follow up with everyone you connected with, especially if you committed to them that you would send them more information, sample chapters, whatever.

Keep the networking going: Relationships take time. Don't expect miracles when you land at a writers conference. Sometimes great stuff will happen right away, and other times it's a process. Don't let the networking end when the function is over. You're now networking with them online via Twitter and Facebook, and perhaps you have some follow-up to do. Keep on their radar screen and then be on the lookout for future events you can attend!

Writers conferences are a great way to get out there and network, meet your peers and meet agents, publishers, and marketing professionals who can help you publish or market your book.


Penny C. Sansevieri is a book marketing and media relations specialist who coaches authors on projects, manuscripts and marketing plans and instructs a variety of coursing on publishing and promotion. To learn more about her books or her promotional services, visit To subscribe to her free ezine, send a blank email to:

Reprinted from "The Book Marketing Expert newsletter," a free ezine offering book promotion and publicity tips and techniques.

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